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Introduction to the best interests of the child standard

The best interests of the child is an important standard to be aware of because it drives child custody decisions. What it is, is based on a variety of factors the family law court will consider to determine what is in the best interests of the child when making a child custody decision.

Factors the family law court may consider when determining what is in the best interests of the child include the mental and physical needs of the parents; if the child has any special needs and if the parents are able to meet those needs; if the parents have any history of physical, sexual, drug or alcohol abuse; any domestic abuse in the home; the age and sex of the child; and the wishes of the child. In addition, the court will consider religious and cultural concerns; the need for a continuous stable home environment; other children relevant to the child's custody arrangement; the opportunity for interaction with extended family members and the support of the same; interactions with household members; and any adjustment to school and community.

The factors the family law court uses to determine what is in the best interests of the child are used to guide child custody decisions and should also guide divorcing parents when negotiating a child custody agreement. Child custody arrangements may be sole or shared and the family law court will need to decide which arrangement is in the best interests of the child when arriving at physical and legal custody of the child and what visitation a parent may be awarded.

Overall, the goal of determining what is in the best interests of the child is to ensure the child's happiness, security, emotional development, mental health and well-being and a strong relationship with both parents whenever possible is viewed as integral to the child's well-being. Because the best interests standard is used to determine the child's well-being and child custody arrangement, parents should be familiar with what it is.

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